Last night, I attended the Seattle chapter of the American Women in Science’s (AWIS) monthly meeting, where the vice president of the University of Washington spoke on the differences between men and women when thinking about science.
To be honest, I expected a more academic speech on the given topic, but given the time constraints (and I think the interests of the audience), Phyllis Wise spoke anecdotally about how factors in her life contributed to where she is now. She emphasized a need for quality mentoring and said given the chance to do it over again, she would still pursue a career in science.
Before and after the speech, we had opportunities to network with the people around us. I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. Yes, I am a member of AWIS, and I feel I belong there with my interests in the social sciences, but all of the women present at this meeting worked in some type of biological science or engineering field. Nevertheless, I heard one woman talk about her work on brain malformations in children. Remembering that the study of language acquisition gets its best information where there are speech problems, I took my cue to introduce myself and probe her for details. We didn’t talk long, but it was enough for her to mention that I should make some contacts with those who work with autistic individuals. There is such a place about three blocks from my work called ASTAR, Autism Spectrum Treatment and Research Center. My hope is that I can schedule a lunch meeting with one of the individuals who works there and pick his/her brain. I have taken at least one step to contact an individual through LinkedIn who lists herself as an autism advocate.
The overall experience last night, though, left me feeling unsettled: This is what I do know: My entire adult life, I have flip-flopped between working in sales or higher education administration. Each job has been something I fell into, not necessarily what I loved — but what I could do well. But, my passion has always remained wanting to learn more about learning. Now, that’s a broad statement, I realize, but what I mean is I want to know how people learn; I want to help people learn better; I want to find ways to help struggling learners find strategies they can use to be and feel successful in the classroom. I’m also interested in language learning. While I’d like to say is I’m mostly interested in second language learning, I’m realizing more and more what interests me is how people learn language (whether that be a first or second language).
What I don’t know is how to take all of these ideas that are swirling in my brain and formulate a career plan. In the broadest terms, I want to be involved in research.
It is my hope that in talking to more people, something will resonate and sound just perfect to me. Networking is key, and right now, it’s the only path I know to take.